Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Government approved illegal pornography

Suppose the Government implements filtering.

The filter fails to be 100% effective - well d'oh!

Some rape and child pornography sites still get through the filters.

However, by this time the populace has been relieved of the responsibility to decide for themselves what is acceptable and non-acceptable pornography. Some may think that if the filter has not blocked it, it must be ok to view and so no further moral judgement is required on their part.

Could the problems the anti-porn people worry about actually get worse, precisely because of the implicit Government authorisation that an ineffective filter will give to material that isn't blocked?

This risk is separate from the risk that by making necessary use of encryption and tunneling to evade filters it may be harder for authorities to monitor and control the activities of Australian paedophiles.

And this risk is separate from the risk, that having adopted encrypted tunnels to pursue their sexual interests, some users may feel secure enough to indulge in even more extreme material than they might have before the filters were imposed.

Given the importance of evidence based policy to this Government, how will success be measured? Will a reduction in web traffic to porn sites mean a reduction in usage of porn, or an increase in usage of p2p traffic and tunnels? Will a reduction in conviction rates for child pornography offences mean a reduction in offence rate, or a reduction in detection rate? What methodology will be used to decide these questions?

Just how many faceless, uncountable children are McMenamin and Hamilton prepared to sacrifice on their altar of state-enforced moral purity?

Why even one?

Is there any evidence these intellects have even considered these questions? If not, perhaps they should commission another NewsPoll.


Anonymous said...

It appears that "think of the children" is contagious.

Do you think that website filtering is really going to have any effect on those people we have already been told are using encryption and P2P file sharing (terrorists, paedophiles and copyright pirates) to share their materials? Those networks (well, probably not the copyright pirates) are probably largely underground already and I think you are focussing on the wrong part of the argument.

Its not about network of pedophiles going underground, its about what the general public can rely upon in their filtered internet service. The point about implicit approval for things that are not filtered out is an interesting one and I've no doubt it will be tested one day. Do the filtering advocates assert that their filtering will work well enough to be relied upon (relieving the individual of responsibility) or do they claim that it cannot be relied upon (keeping responsibility with the individual)?

If it can't be relied upon, how do we measure the benefit that an imperfect system delivers? "if we only save one child..." is polemic, not an answer. I remain to be convinced that cutting off Australian demand for such materials would have a significant effect on production. The real first issue here is what can be done about production, and about the main distribution networks? Is it the visible networks that drive production or is it the underground ones? Is the filtering effort being spent on things that will have an effect outside of the world inhabited by pollsters, opinion piece writers and people who highly value net neutrality? Think of the children indeed... will any of this have a real effect?

Jon Seymour said...

Very well put and in case it wasn't clear, I agree with everything you say.

Even McMenamin concedes [ refer ABC talkback last Tuesday ] that filtering won't stop the hard core users. She is only concerned about the click-through users who get dragged into deeper and deeper trouble.

How many 404s will these users get before they start experimenting with the encrypted tunnels. Once they are in the encrypted tunnels, how do we know what they are going to do with their new found "digital freedom"?

My position is that it is a dangerous world out there and we should rely upon and encourage individual responsibilty. Perhaps we should teach Australians that "we cannot be
truly free unless we commit ourselves to a moral life". If they remain unconvinced, perhaps we should by them all a copy of Clive's book. Oh the irony, it is so bittersweet. Must be all that iron.

"Think of the children" is undoubtedly polemic. I am just trying to show that it is polemic that can cut both ways.